Princeton University is committed to fairness and transparency in assessment of students' work and grading practices. This approach emphasizes well-defined evaluative criteria and meaningful feedback as the most important pedagogical components of the grading system. Faculty shall use grades and substantive feedback to give students clear and detailed information about the quality of their work. Each department and program shall articulate well-defined and meaningful grading standards for work within its discipline.
The same standards for judging academic performance apply to all students in a course, whether it is taken by an upperclass or underclass student, as a departmental or an elective course, or as an undergraduate or graduate course. A student may not, for example, submit extra work or revised work unless this opportunity is explicitly extended to all students in the course.
A student who believes that a course grade was assigned unfairly or in a manner not consistent with the stated grading policies of the course should first discuss the grade with the course professor. If necessary, the matter may then be pursued with the chair or departmental representative of the department in which the course is offered. If the matter cannot be resolved at the departmental level, then the student may bring an appeal to Dean Claire Fowler, acting for the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing. It is important to note that the committee judges only the fairness or consistency of the grading process; it does not make an independent assessment of the quality of the course work.
Final grades for undergraduate courses and independent work are reported at the end of each term in the following way:
A+ Exceptional; significantly exceeds the highest expectations for undergraduate work
A Outstanding; meets the highest standards for the assignment or course
A- Excellent; meets very high standards for the assignment or course
B+ Very good; meets high standards for the assignment or course
B Good; meets most of the standards for the assignment or course
B- More than adequate; shows some reasonable command of the material
C+ Acceptable; meets basic standards for the assignment or course
C Acceptable; meets some of the basic standards for the assignment or course
C- Acceptable, while falling short of meeting basic standards in several ways
D Minimally acceptable; lowest passing grade
F Failing; very poor performance
P Grades of A+ through C– in courses taken on pass/D/fail basis
Audit Satisfactory completion of required work in a course taken on an audit basis
INC Course not completed at end of term (late completion authorized)
W Student withdrew from a course after completing the ninth week of the term
YR Completion of required work in the first semester of a year-long course
A small number of courses offer students one unit of credit spread across two consecutive semesters. In these year-long courses, students receive one unit of course credit at the conclusion of the second semester. For the first semester, the student receives the grade notation of YR for the course. This notation remains on the student’s transcript, although the student’s grade in the course is determined by work completed across both semesters. For students who take the first semester of a year-long course, but do not complete the second semester, no letter grade will be recorded and no course credit awarded.
A grade of D is the minimum acceptable passing grade in all courses. There are five exceptions to this general rule: (1) most departments require at least a C average in departmental courses, and therefore a D in a departmental course or courses may lead to failure in the area of concentration; (2) the accumulation of two or more Ds in a term is regarded by the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing as evidence of serious academic difficulty, for which letters of academic warning or academic probation may be issued; (3) a student may be required to withdraw if the student receives two Ds while on academic probation; (4) a student who is required to repeat a term for academic reasons will not receive credit for a course in the repeated term in which the student received a D; (5) a student taking a preapproved course outside Princeton must earn at least a C to receive credit for the course.
Pass/D/Fail Option (also known as "PDF" option)
The intent of the pass/D/fail option is to encourage exploration and experimentation in curricular areas in which the student may have had little or no previous experience. The pass/D/fail option also may be used by the student in completing distribution courses. Students are permitted to elect the pass/D/fail option between the beginning of the seventh and the end of the ninth week of classes.
At the point of declaring a concentration or enrolling in a certificate, students may appeal to have the grade uncovered in a course for which they received a "P" in a previous semester in order to meet a requirement for that department or program. Students who wish to make such an appeal should consult with their residential college dean.
1. As part of the regular academic program, each undergraduate may elect pass/D/fail grading in as many as four courses. Courses designated pass/D/fail only ("pdfo") do not count against this total. A spring semester senior who has completed 31 (AB) or 36 (BSE) courses at the end of the preceding fall term may be permitted to take one additional elected PDF during the spring term, with permission of the residential college dean.
2. A student may elect only one pass/D/fail course per term, regardless of the number of courses in which the student is enrolled or how many pass/D/fail options the student has remaining; courses designated pass/D/fail only ("pdfo") do not count against this limitation.
3. Any course, including courses to fulfill distribution requirements, may be taken pass/D/fail, with the following exceptions:
a) A student's own departmental courses, as well as technical course requirements in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, may ordinarily not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis.
b) Courses designated "No pass/D/fail" by the instructor may not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis.
c) Courses taken outside Princeton may not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis.
4. A student must declare a pass/D/fail election between the beginning of the seventh and the end of the ninth week of classes. No further changes in grading options will be permitted after 11:59 p.m. on the Friday of the ninth week of classes.
Recording Grades for Independent Work in More than One Department
Students may have only one concentration at Princeton. The degree and departmental honors are granted in one department only. Under special circumstances, however, a student may receive permission to complete independent work in more than one department. A student hoping to pursue this option must have completed the prerequisites for entry into the second department, and must have both the permission of the departmental representative in the second department and the permission of the Office of the Dean of the College. Such a student may then write junior papers and a senior thesis in the second department and have that work recorded on the transcript. Such additional independent work will not count toward a student's graduation requirements. Independent work written to fulfill the requirements of a certificate program is not recorded on the transcript.